Spark* NTNU was established in 2014, but 2019 was the year the organization took its most significant steps so far.
The organization provides mentoring and an entrepreneurial network within the ecosystem at the university and courses with industry professionals. Together with their sponsors who represent the local industry, Spark* NTNU offers funding for early-stage projects. Spark* NTNU also provides a variety of events aimed at engaging students at the university. For instance, “Join A StartUp Night” – or JASUN – is an event where startups can pitch themselves for students who want to experience the entrepreneurial life.
The student-to-student mentoring has been unique to NTNU, and brands like ReMarkable, Gobi, and Tise have taken advantage of the service. The last project to come out of Spark* NTNU is “Kvinneprosjektet”, a project aimed at inspiring more women to become entrepreneurs as they are underrepresented. In 2019 Spark* NTNU gained attention from several institutions throughout Norway with expansions planned at Høgskolen i Sørøst Norge. Engage partner Nord University launched their Spark* Nord in February.
Spark’s success formula is now being adopted by Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The project, named Spark* Chalmers, was launched in December. The expansions mean that Spark* has grown beyond its original “NTNU” suffix and is a household name in higher education in Scandinavia. A network of Sparks will be created and grow because of the hard work put down by students who have become engaged. Anca Elena Papainog is the project manger of Spark* Chalmers ans could answer some questions from us.
Why did you want Spark?
We believe that Spark is a good recipe for both mentors and mentees, and we already have 16 applicants as of January 2020. As a mentor, you get to meet a lot of passionate and ambitious students that you can learn from. As a mentee, you receive support in taking concrete actions that will take your idea further. We have seen a wide variety of business ideas, which shows that Spark is something of interest for all Chalmers students.
How has the relationship between Spark* NTNU and Spark* Chalmers been?
We have been extremely fortunate to receive guidance from Spark NTNU, and we could not have managed to move so rapidly without their help. While we do have to adapt the program to our university, we want to follow in Spark* NTNU’s steps to a large extent. That is why, we are planning to start holding the “Join a startup night” events, as we have noticed that many of our mentees wish to find a co- founder.
What are your goals for the future?
Our main goals for the upcoming months are to reach and attract more mentees to find funding opportunities, hopefully, a long term partner who believes in this program as much as we do.
Project manager at Spark* NTNU, Christian Schultz was also asked his opinions on the progress that has been made.
What is really interesting and engaging about the expansion of Spark* is that we are being contacted by institutions in Norway and Sweden. They are willing to put the work down, and there is a demand for such an organization in these places. Another place we are establishing Spark* at the moment is Mo i Rana which will be a division of Spark* Nord. This has never been done before, but if proven successful, it can be a great way to establish smaller organizations in smaller areas without the need for an administrative center in each area.
Why do you think other universities want to implement the Spark* program?
Spark* is an organization that helps students fulfill their potential during their studies. This is what students from all over the globe want, and that’s why we’re here on a mission to help them with that. Norway and Sweden are the first two stops on that journey. If we manage to provide tools for the organization to communicate with each other, they can do mentoring together, share courses, and in general, make every organization much better. This is something that will be valuable and something that we have in mind when establishing new organizations.
2020 will surely be another exciting year for Spark* NTNU. In January, the organization is moving together with the other student-run organizations Start, FRAM, and Designhjelpen to new offices at Campus Gløshaugen. With the move, Spark* will be able to offer a co-working space for their mentees and improve their service to another level. Together with Engage and the innovation ecosystem, Spark* is prepared to engage all students in Norway who want to become entrepreneurs and inspire, mentor, and help students.